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See detailThe EChO science case
Tinetti, Giovanna; Drossart, Pierre; Eccleston, Paul et al

in ArXiv e-prints (2015), 1502

The discovery of almost 2000 exoplanets has revealed an unexpectedly diverse planet population. Observations to date have shown that our Solar System is certainly not representative of the general ... [more ▼]

The discovery of almost 2000 exoplanets has revealed an unexpectedly diverse planet population. Observations to date have shown that our Solar System is certainly not representative of the general population of planets in our Milky Way. The key science questions that urgently need addressing are therefore: What are exoplanets made of? Why are planets as they are? What causes the exceptional diversity observed as compared to the Solar System? EChO (Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory) has been designed as a dedicated survey mission for transit and eclipse spectroscopy capable of observing a large and diverse planet sample within its four-year mission lifetime. EChO can target the atmospheres of super-Earths, Neptune-like, and Jupiter-like planets, in the very hot to temperate zones (planet temperatures of 300K-3000K) of F to M-type host stars. Over the next ten years, several new ground- and space-based transit surveys will come on-line (e.g. NGTS, CHEOPS, TESS, PLATO), which will specifically focus on finding bright, nearby systems. The current rapid rate of discovery would allow the target list to be further optimised in the years prior to EChO's launch and enable the atmospheric characterisation of hundreds of planets. Placing the satellite at L2 provides a cold and stable thermal environment, as well as a large field of regard to allow efficient time-critical observation of targets randomly distributed over the sky. A 1m class telescope is sufficiently large to achieve the necessary spectro-photometric precision. The spectral coverage (0.5-11 micron, goal 16 micron) and SNR to be achieved by EChO, thanks to its high stability and dedicated design, would enable a very accurate measurement of the atmospheric composition and structure of hundreds of exoplanets. [less ▲]

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See detailExoplanet Characterization and the Search for Life
Kasting, James; Traub, W.; Roberge, A. et al

E-print/Working paper (2009)

Over 300 extrasolar planets (exoplanets) have been detected orbiting nearby stars. We now hope to conduct a census of all planets around nearby stars and to characterize their atmospheres and surfaces ... [more ▼]

Over 300 extrasolar planets (exoplanets) have been detected orbiting nearby stars. We now hope to conduct a census of all planets around nearby stars and to characterize their atmospheres and surfaces with spectroscopy. Rocky planets within their star's habitable zones have the highest priority, as these have the potential to harbor life. Our science goal is to find and characterize all nearby exoplanets; this requires that we measure the mass, orbit, and spectroscopic signature of each one at visible and infrared wavelengths. The techniques for doing this are at hand today. Within the decade we could answer long-standing questions about the evolution and nature of other planetary systems, and we could search for clues as to whether life exists elsewhere in our galactic neighborhood. [less ▲]

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See detailGENIE: a Ground-Based European Nulling Instrument at ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer
Gondoin, P.; den Hartog, R.; Fridlund, M. et al

in Richichi, A.; Delplancke, F.; Paresce, F. (Eds.) et al The Power of Optical/IR Interferometry: Recent Scientific Results and 2nd Generation Instrumentation (2008)

Darwin is one of the most challenging space projects ever considered by the European Space Agency (ESA). Its principal objectives are to detect Earth-like planets around nearby stars, to analyze the ... [more ▼]

Darwin is one of the most challenging space projects ever considered by the European Space Agency (ESA). Its principal objectives are to detect Earth-like planets around nearby stars, to analyze the composition of their atmospheres and to assess their ability to sustain life as we know it. Darwin is conceived as a space ``nulling interferometer'' which makes use of on-axis destructive interferences to extinguish the stellar light while keeping the off-axis signal of the orbiting planet. Within the frame of the Darwin program, definition studies of a Ground based European Nulling Interferometry Experiment, called GENIE, were completed in 2005. This instrument built around the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) in Paranal will test some of the key technologies required for the Darwin Infrared Space Interferometer. GENIE will operate in the L' band around 3.8 microns as a single Bracewell nulling interferometer using either two Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) or two 8m Unit Telescopes (UTs). Its science objectives include the detection and characterization of dust disks and low-mass companions around nearby stars. [less ▲]

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